The Caregiver’s Guide to Summer Safety for Seniors
Summer is here and unfortunately for some of us, it’s not all fun in the sun! Extended heat exposure can lead to serious health concerns, especially for people aged 65 and older.
Here are some tips to help you and your caregivers keep your clients safe and healthy all summer long.
Stay hydrated. Hydration is a full-time job – especially in the summer. Don’t wait until thirst strikes to reach for the H2O – be sure to drink plenty of water all throughout the day. Additionally, you may want to limit or monitor your clients’ caffeine and alcohol intake, as these substances contribute to dehydration.
Keep meals light and cool. You wouldn’t dare turn up the heat on a hot summer’s day, so think twice before using the oven or stove. Keep your clients cool by preparing simple, nutritious meals like pasta salads with fresh vegetables. Try incorporating water-rich fruits and veggies like cucumber, celery, watermelon, and strawberries for an extra dose of hydration.
Don’t skimp on sun protection. Did you know that a sunburn impacts the body’s ability to cool itself? Sunscreen is your armor against the sun’s damaging UV rays. Dermatologists advise using a mineral-based sunscreen with zinc and applying it liberally and often. Additionally, encourage your clients to wear wide-brimmed hats and lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing that repels sunlight and provides an added layer of protection.
Move exercise indoors. Regular exercise has many benefits for seniors, from improved mental health to a decreased risk of falls. While it’s great to get moving outside and breathe in the fresh air in the cooler months, you’ll want to take that low-impact cardio inside for the summertime. Indoor yoga, Tai Chi, or swimming classes are healthy options for any season.
Seek air conditioning. Many heat-related deaths occur when older people live in poorly ventilated homes that lack air conditioning. Electric fans simply won’t do the job as the temperature climbs into the 80s and 90s. If your client’s home isn’t air conditioned, try to spend as much time as possible with them at a local spot that does. For example, many senior centers open their doors as cooling centers in the summer months.
Respect the learning curve. You may have grown up hearing all about the dangers of too much sun exposure, but things were different when today’s seniors were kids. They likely spent hours outside, without much fear of skin cancer, heatstroke, or other health risks. When discussing summer safety with your elderly clients, be sure to keep this in mind and exercise patience and understanding.
Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Too much heat can be dangerous for anyone, but seniors are especially at risk for heat-related health issues. According to Mayo Clinic, heat exhaustion may look like: cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat; heavy sweating; faintness; dizziness; fatigue; weak, rapid pulse; low blood pressure upon standing; muscle cramps; nausea; and/or headaches. If you notice any symptoms of heat-related illness, be sure to notify your agency and seek medical help immediately.
Pay extra attention to your clients. While the hot summer months present unique challenges for seniors, it’s a good idea to practice observing your clients for potential health risks all throughout the year. HHAeXchange offers a Care Insights tool that streamlines the process, making it easier for caregivers to know what to look for and get in the habit of reporting their observations. With Care Insights, agencies are alerted to changes in a client’s condition so they can take action before a situation worsens.
While you’re busy caring for others, don’t forget to care for yourself. Your clients are not the only ones whose health you need to protect. Healthy caregivers know that to take good care of others, they must put their own needs first. Eat a well-balanced diet, aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep, and take time to relax and appreciate the good things.
To learn more about how HHAeXchange can help your caregivers keep clients safe and healthy all throughout the year, contact us.